The Purchase for Progress (P4P) is a joint Programme of the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security and the World Food Programme (WFP) as means of helping smallholder farmers and farmer based organizations (FBOs) realize the economic value of their agricultural products.

P4P through individual farmers and FBOs-especially the government assisted Agricultural Business Centres (ABCs) aims to increase the production capacity of smallholder farmers and enable them to access sustainable markets. WFP’s presence as a reliable market gives agricultural development partners and farmers the opportunity to test innovative approaches for improving smallholder commercialization of rice and other staple foods in Sierra Leone. Farmers now through the P4P have a reliable market for their product and farm without the worry of who to sell to.

Established in 2009 through the Ministry, WFP and other development partners, the P4P now operated with over 30 FBOs and has coveted a membership of over 7,739 and 54% of who are women.

The assured demand by WFP also provides an incentive for farmer’s based organizations (FOs) to invest in production and develop their capacity. P4P and partners are working to improve farmers’ access to production inputs, credit and land, expanding the markets accessible to them. P4P has also been integrated into the government’s Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP), which focuses on improving productivity, marketing, infrastructure and rural finance.

Achievements

Collective sales: P4P has acted as a catalyst for collective sales by FBOs, allowing the majority of organizations to sell quality processed rice in bulk for the first time.

Crop quality: Nearly all FBOs were able to fulfill WFP quality requirements, indicating the success of capacity development activities carried out by WFP and its partners.

Partnership: P4P has coordinated with a wide variety of agricultural and market stakeholders, allowing farmers to access training, credit and agricultural inputs.

Government partnership: P4P has contributed to the SCP flagship programme and will continue to expand its involvement.

Sustainability: FBOs are beginning to perceive WFP as a business partner instead of an aid agency. In addition, selling to WFP has increased the exposure of FBOs to other buyers and helped them gain confidence in their role as farmers. This has been particularly important for women. One commercial bank has even started lending to smallholders due to successful sales.

Challenges

Capacity: FBOs often struggled to meet WFP’s quantity, quality, and marketing requirements. More capacity development is necessary at all levels of the value chain, especially as new organizations join the programme.

FBO leadership: Effective governance and leadership continue to pose significant challenges for FOs. They especially require more support to engage with financial service providers in order to develop their capacity.

Supply side support organizations were often limited by funding constraints, and projects which were part of P4P ended due to resource limitations on several occasions.

Procurement: Local food prices in Sierra Leone are highly volatile and often more costly than the international price of the same commodity. Because WFP’s procurement policy obligates the organization to buy maximum quantities of food at the lowest prices available, procurement from smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone has been limited. In addition, WFP’s lengthy payment process compared to direct selling at the farm gate has caused some farmers to sell their produce to other buyers, de-faulting on WFP contracts.

At the ABC is Lago in the Kenema District, farmers are said to be even falling short of the demand by WFP which purchases their products for relief and other food supplement in the country.

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